“In a world that is constantly changing, there is not one subject or set of subjects that will serve you for the foreseeable future, let alone for the rest of your life. The most important skill to acquire now is learning how to learn.” – Josh Naisbitt
Learning doesn’t have to be regimented. Use informal teaching to create a workplace where everyone learns, all the time.
A Learning Atmosphere
While formalized training programs usually dominate workplace learning, individuals learn better informally, through daily activities, than they do in a formal classroom. To encourage your employees to learn more, promote everyday learning. A few key concepts should shape the way people learn at work:
- Learners should be responsible for self-directed learning.
- Self-knowledge provides a beginning point for further learning. Use tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to learn about yourself and how you relate to others.
- A flexible setting will promote your effort to create opportunities for people to learn.
- Learning can occur through reading, reflecting, experimenting or engaging in activities. Often unusual activities are very educational.
- You can’t know all the issues that may come up in a rapidly changing environment.
- Employees should be able to apply their current tools to be able to devise solutions in unfamiliar situations.
- Learning should be conscious. Accidental learning is inefficient.
- People learn better when they are aware of the learning process and actively choose to participate.
- Integrate learning into daily activities and let it happen as employees work.
- To experience new learning, people sometimes must “unlearn” what they already know to look at things in new ways.
- You may find that a past axiom no longer holds true. For instance, a directive management style, which was the old standard, might not work as well in a learning environment as encouraging people to ask questions and be independent.
Individualized spontaneous learning offers your company many benefits, including:
- Increased productivity and quality – Employees who know more can do better work.
- Increased innovation – Employees who are in the process of learning are more responsive to the needs of other people, including your customers.
- Increased adaptability to change – Learning is virtually synonymous with personal change, so it makes employees more flexible.
- A competitive advantage – You have more knowledgeable people in your workforce.
- Fewer communication barriers – Managers can act more like mentors as they help employees understand what they are learning and how it contributes to their performance.
- Increased employee motivation, attraction and retention – Employees who are in the midst of learning usually like their jobs. This makes your firm a better place to work and it draws new talent. Your employees feel motivated to do their best and to stay with your company.
- Lower costs – Informal teaching is cheaper than traditional educational methods.
The organizational advantages of increased learning are clear, but you will need to show your employees that they also reap benefits. Whether they are goal-oriented, activity oriented or learning-oriented, individuals who are adding to their education find that their work becomes more interesting.
They have a strong sense of their own value and they obtain more satisfaction and joy from their achievements. Knowledgeable workers are more employable; more secure and better paid, since they know how to do superior work. Your HR staffers also will enjoy filling a new, positive role as they help their co-workers by facilitating their learning.